Superintendent Melvin Brown is sifting through more than 30 applications to find 14 Reynoldsburg High School students who will be members of his new student advisory council.

Beginning this fall, the sophomores, juniors and seniors will meet with Brown at least six times during the school year to provide feedback, opinions and ideas about district initiatives and programs.

"I wanted to find a way to engage our students so that they can have a voice," Brown said. "We hope to get their input on how we conduct district operations.

"Students often see things differently than we do, and I would like to hear their opinions," he said.

Applications were due April 30. After he finishes going through them, Brown will set up interviews with the students.

Those chosen as advisory council members might not have the highest grade-point average, although a minimum GPA of 2.5 is required, he said.

"I'm looking for kids who have a global perspective and those who would advocate for other students and the school district," he said. "They might not necessarily be the ones with the top GPA. I am not just interested in students that are leaders in their classes but who will work with me and talk about district issues."

He said the vast majority of applicants had GPAs well above 2.5, however, and are involved in numerous school activities.

"It looks like we will have a good cross section of grade levels and perspectives on the council," Brown said.

School board Vice President Debbie Dunlap said she is happy the superintendent "recognizes students as stakeholders in the school district."

"He obviously puts a lot of value in the opinion of our students, who are on the front line of the educational process every day," she said.

Dunlap said she and other board members talked to Encore Academy students recently, listening to ideas about district and city issues.

"The students were truly engaged and informed," she said. "They care about what goes on in the district but also what is happening in Reynoldsburg. I was really impressed by their comments, their insight and their knowledge of what is going on."

Brown said he would notify students who are chosen for the advisory council by the end of the school year. The last day of school is May 24.

Information given to the applicants says advisory council members are expected to attend all meetings; act as liaisons between the superintendent and other students; share information with classmates; maintain a broad understanding of school-related issues; and be able to "engage in meaningful dialogue regarding student views of the performance and operations of Reynoldsburg City Schools."

Brown said members could remain in the group beyond one school year.

"Once the council is identified, they could stay members from one school year to the next," he said. "If we have six seniors or so on the council and they graduate, then we would have six open spots on the council that other students could apply for."

He said the group could benefit from learning more about district initiatives and programs.

"We want to expose them not only to school district issues to get their feedback but also to community resources so that they can see themselves as not only a part of the district but (also) as a part of the city of Reynoldsburg," he said.

Brown is looking forward to lively conversations.

"I expect fresh ideas and I expect to be challenged and given some pushback," he said.

When talking about the advisory group at the April school board meeting, Brown said he would try to help students understand that "positive change is not always comfortable."

"We have to take risks in order to improve," he said. "Our decisions as administrators are never personal -- we don't wake up in the morning and make a list of things to pick on today.

"We want to enhance all we can across the board to make the best possible school district for our students," he said. "I always say that we have to move from a position of comfort to a position of discomfort to get better. I don't want us just to be a good school district -- I want us to be great."

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